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Downtown Orlando Developments

Hanging gardens and ceramic tiles highlight design for newest downtown tower

The Chicago architects who designed the proposed 36-story tower in downtown Orlando employed curved concrete slabs, lush landscaping and organic materials to soften the visual impact of the skyscraper.

Developer Cameron Kuhn and GREC Architect’s Michael Comiskey sought a courtesy review Thursday from the city’s Appearance Review Board on the mixed-use residential tower planned on what’s now a parking lot at 110 W. Jefferson St. next to Interstate 4. Comiskey submitted a master plan for the project with a single rendering for the Municipal Planning Board meeting Sept. 20. For the ARB, the design package includes a variety of perspectives and suggested materials, as well as an explanation of the design, which is intended “to create a vibrant hospitality environment.”

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In his narrative, Comiskey noted that the building itself would be sculpted into a bowed shape in the north-south direction to “create a play of sunlight reflected off the exterior glazing.” The building itself would be narrowed on the uppermost floors to create larger terraces and to break down the massing as it meets the sky.

“Additionally, the concrete slab edges of both the residential tower and the parking podium concrete slab edges at the building corners and balconies will be shaped to achieve a dynamic, flowing form as seen from the ground level and 6th-floor amenity terrace,” Comiskey wrote.

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ARB member Danny Gordan said he appreciated the purity of the form, especially the curves. “I think it’s really nice,” he said. “I really like the simplicity of it, as well. It’s not fussy. It’s a strong statement.”

The primary entrance would be a porte cochere on W. Washington Street, which would feature tapered columns and planter seating with lush vegetation. The walls would be a mix of glazing (windows) and colorful green and blue ceramic tiles. The most visually striking element is the five-story hanging garden that extends through a series of oculi, or circular cutouts, at the southwest corner of the parking podium.

ARB member Clarisse Gates said she loved the design. “The slab extensions on this project are probably my favorite part,” she said. She asked Comiskey to explain the developer’s plan for maintaining the vegetation planted along the sides of the podium and the tower. “I’m just curious about those plants over the long term so that they maintain their appearance because they look beautiful in the inspiration photos.”

Comiskey said the design team would select native plants to Orlando that “thrive in the abundance of sunlight.”

“The landscaping is one component of this project that we deemed to be important and something that we have a keen eye on as we’ve incorporated a lot of this, especially onto our third-floor amenity deck, where there is an extensive amount of landscaping,” he added.

The architect also provided a detailed view of the amenity deck on the roof of the parking podium. It shows the amenity level slab recessed on the west elevation to create a large planter filled with lush landscaping. Shade structures and the pool would utilize dynamic curved shaped, with a series of terraced lounges, sunning shelves and organic and fluid landscaping. Here, again, the glazed ceramic tiles would add pops of color to the vertical elements.

ARB Chair Jill Rose said when she first saw the renderings, she was concerned that the amenity deck would be so gorgeous it would cause distractions to drivers on I-4. Once she realized the deck would be about 30 feet higher than the interstate, she felt more comfortable with the design.

The proposed tower would rise 395 feet — making it the fifth tallest building in downtown Orlando — and would have 555 market-rate apartments, 40,895 square feet of office space, 22,000 square feet of retail space, and 350 parking spaces located on levels 2 through 5.

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In his initial report, ARB Executive Director Richard Forbes complimented the architectural design but noted a few areas of concern. The roof is relatively flat, so Forbes said the final architectural package should include a roof treatment to enhance the city’s skyline.

Gordan agreed. The top of the building could use a little bit more signature,” he said. “I already mentioned that it’s good that it’s not fussy, but I think it could have more of a singular statement at the top.”

In his narrative, Comiskey wrote that he anticipates “that exterior lighting will play a large part in the build design to highlight the unique forms of the building and the lush vegetation.” Forbes said the final design package must include a detailed lighting plan as well as color renderings with both night and day perspectives.

The streetscape also will need to be installed based on the city’s guidelines, which include 10-foot-wide sidewalks with double-acorn lights, street furniture and live oak street trees.

Comiskey said the Kuhn increased the unit count from the previous 544 to 555 based on the most recent survey of the property. The plan includes about 16 three-bedroom penthouse units on floors 34 and 35. Level 36 will have amenities and a large roof terrace.

The master plan is slated to go to the Municipal Planning Board on Sept. 20.

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Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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